November 28, 2021

Expedia research: Price no longer primary driver of travel decisions

New research from Expedia Group reveals shifting views on travel, including positive sentiment on vaccine…

New research from Expedia Group reveals shifting views on travel, including positive sentiment on vaccine passports, increased budgets and an enduring demand for safety and financial security. The Traveler Value Index examines the views of 8,000 people in eight countries to understand their values and expectations as the pandemic becomes more controlled in many parts of the world.

“As vaccination rates rise and borders open across the globe, people are ready and eager to travel,” said Ariane Gorin, president, Expedia for Business, Expedia Group. “However, the months of uncertainty are weighing on their travel decisions and shifting the conventional belief that price is the top driver of bookings. These insights show people want to book with trusted travel providers that will deliver on their experiences, keep them safe and protect their financial investments.”

Improved outlook for 2021 and beyond
Despite a period of uncertainty, the Traveler Value Index shows that people are making travel a financial priority. More than a third (34%) of travelers have larger travel budgets now compared to 2020. In fact, nearly one in five respondents globally (18%) expect travel to be the activity they spend most on in 2021, on par with major spending items such as home renovation (18%) and ahead of entertainment (12%), buying or taking care of a car (11%) or healthcare (11%). Additionally, more than third (36%) say they would trade a pay raise for more vacation days

Travelers are thinking differently about the frequency and length of travel. Many (60%) are opting for domestic travel in the short-term, however, they are planning to get away more often, nearly half (41%) wanting more frequent, shorter, trips. The outlook for international travel is also improving, with more than a quarter (27%) of travelers considering a trip to another country in the next year. In fact, nearly three-quarters (71%) of travelers are comfortable showing a vaccine passport to travel internationally.

The research also shows an increased desire for new and different experiences over nostalgic destinations, with three-quarters (75%) of travelers likely to select a travel destination they’ve never been to before. Additionally, more than half (52%) are likely to use a new mode of transportation, and nearly a quarter (22%) are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience on their next trip.

Decisions reflect personal values
The Traveler Value Index reveals that travelers continue to make value-based decisions that reflect their own personal views when booking travel. Travelers want to support sustainable practices, with nearly three in five (59%) willing to pay higher fees to make their trip more sustainable.

“We know that being environmentally friendly and so on has been top of mind for people who travel for a while now,” Hari Nair, SVP & GM account management, Expedia Group, told Hotel Business. “What surprised me the most was that the younger generation is more attuned to things that have to do with sustainability.”

Additionally, a majority (65%) are more likely to book with travel providers that have inclusive policies. This includes properties that are owned by women and/or people of color, are welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community and are supportive of people with disabilities.

Knowing that travelers are being true to their personal beliefs and values is an opportunity for the industry, according to Nair. “Now they are not afraid to exercise them in terms of their travel choices that they make in terms of providers they would select or destinations they might go to,” he said. “I think it really provides an interesting opportunity for the enterprises, the business providers and the industry, in general, to think about their own values and find a way to connect with travelers.”

Paying attention to the younger generation is very important. “People who are going to have the money ten years from now—and that is the younger generation—they are giving us a sneak peek into what there expectations will be,” he said. “They have a real opportunity to get a share of their wallets.”

Financial security and safety are top priorities
The Traveler Value Index ranks the factors shaping booking decisions across multiple travel experiences:

  • The ability to get a full refund if their plans change
  • Atypical, low pricing cause by low demand during the pandemic
  • Contactless experiences like card-less hotel or vacation rental entry, online check-ins or digital boarding passes
  • Environmentally friendly policies such as a reduced use of plastics or locally sourced food and products
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures
  • Flexible policies to change bookings
  • First-class benefits and upgrade

Financial security and safety rank as the highest priorities for travelers across all experiences, a shift from the conventional wisdom that price drives consumer behavior. More than one in four travelers most value the ability to get a refund, particularly for airline (26%) and vacation rental (26%) experiences, followed by enhanced cleaning and disinfection. The results highlight a need for travel providers to clearly communicate cancellation policies and cleanliness measures to help ease any anxieties and build confidence.

The Traveler Value Index also shows differences in values by age group, indicating that younger groups are less focused on price and refunds:

  • For hotels and vacation rentals, the ability to get a full refund increases in value with age. However, travelers under the age of 40 in the U.S. and Japan rank enhanced cleaning the most important factor in hotel bookings, while also seeing more value in contactless experiences and premium benefits.